Cancer center zoning moves forward

With the New Haven City Plan Commission’s approval of Yale-New Haven Hospital’s proposed medical zone Wednesday night, the hospital’s cancer center expansion is now on the fast track to approval from the Board of Aldermen, although some community dissent remains.

The zoning map portion of the proposed medical zone amendment passed unanimously at the City Plan Commission. Permits were also granted for the demolition of the Grace Building, which currently occupies the site for the proposed center. But two members of the commission abstained from the vote, renewing questions in the community about how the center’s development will affect its surrounding neighborhood.

Ward 14 Alderman Joseph Jolly said the proposal passed at the end of the night because the commission does not want to delay the project any further.

“This project is too important to hold up,” he said. “The map amendment is not the place to address this issue.”

But some community members, including New Haven Green Party member Gerald Martin, said they were disappointed by the commission’s decision to approve the amendment as it stood. Martin and others said they wanted an additional change to the proposed zone that would withhold the plan for Lot E, the proposed parking garage for the center, to be decided at a later date.

Jolly said that while points raised by local residents about controlling the increase in area traffic were legitimate, parking must also be addressed in the zone map.

Martin said an environmental impact study, called for in the agreement reached by city, hospital and union leaders two weeks ago, needed to be done before a decision was reached on the zoning of Lot E. The approval of the zone as it stands means that the city will not be able to implement changes that may be recommended by the environmental impact study, he said.

“If you give away the property before the property agreement is made, you have no leverage,” Martin said. “There’s no effort on their part to really do this.”

Robin Schafer, a postdoctoral student in radiology who works at Yale’s Anlyan Center for Medical Research and Education, said she supported withholding Lot E from the proposed map amendment. She said she does not think the currently proposed zoning is adequate to address both parking and pollution issues in the neighborhood. While Schafer said she was disappointed in the outcome of the meeting, she said she would try to construct testimony in response to New Haven City Planner Karen Gilvarg, who advocated approval of the zoning last night.

Gilvarg said she did not feel that Lot E needed to be withheld from the map amendment, although she said sympathized with concerns raised regarding parking and traffic management. She said the approved plan for the Lot E garage is much smaller than originally proposed by the hospital, but could not be withheld from tonight’s vote.

“I would have recommended it had I thought so,” she said.

Local resident Angela Hatley said she was outraged at the commission’s approval of the amendment as it stood. She said she felt that none of the aldermen listened to the community and that they are allowing development to destroy local neighborhoods, such as Gilbert Street, where her former residence stood.

“They’ve already obliterated the block I used to live on,” she said. “I grew up there; now Yale’s there.”

Norman Roth, senior vice president for administration at Yale-New Haven, said he was looking forward to presenting the entire parking management program at tomorrow night’s meeting, but also said he thought it was necessary to address Lot E last night. Roth said he was also pleased that the approval of the cancer center was moving forward as planned.

“Clearly, in order to have final approval of the cancer center, a parking plan is part of that approval,” he said. “It seems logical to use an existing parking area.”

Tonight’s meeting of the Aldermanic Committee of the Whole will take place at 6 p.m. at Betsy Ross School on Kimberly Avenue.

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